Famous for orchestrating the crackdown on Uighurs and other Muslim minorities over the past five years, Xinjiang Party Secretary, and therefore the region’s number one, Chen Quanguo, 66, has stepped down. To replace him, Beijing has appointed Ma Xingrui, a scientist, former head of the Chinese space program who has become number two in Guangdong province, one of the most dynamic in China, the official China New news agency revealed on Saturday (December 25). , without further explanation.
The announcement comes a few days after the adoption by the United States of a law banning the importation of products from Xinjiang, on charges of forced labor. But the transition undertaken must not be overinterpreted: despite the criticisms and sanctions to which he has been subjected by Europe and the United States, Chen Quanguo has never been disowned by Beijing. Ma Xingrui could have the task of reviving a regional economy stifled by repression, and now targeted by international sanctions.
From Beijing’s point of view, Chen Quanguo is leaving the Xinjiang Autonomous Region on duty. As the authorities repeat, Xinjiang has not experienced a single attack since 2017, whereas they were recurrent in previous years. Arrived at the head of the region in mid-2016, he set up an unprecedented security apparatus: police stations set up on every street corner, armed police patrols, checkpoints … Chen Quanguo’s Xinjiang looked like war. Above all, the man has overseen the construction of hundreds of “re-education” camps across the region, and increased the number of prisons and detention centers. According to experts, between one and two million Uighurs have been detained in these camps since 2017, out of a population of 11 million people.
Originally from Henan, a poor province in central China, Chen Quanguo joined the People’s Liberation Army in 1973. After the end of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), he resumed studying economics. politics, before starting a career as a local manager. Chen Quanguo rose through the ranks as current premier Li Keqiang ruled the province. In 2011, he was thus appointed head of the Tibet Autonomous Region, where he tested some of the drastic security measures then put in place in Xinjiang: massive recruitment of police officers and the establishment of permanent surveillance involving the inhabitants themselves. As the fire immolations of Buddhist monks and nuns increased, thousands of them were sent to re-education camps.
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Xinjiang leader quits post after five-year crackdown on Uighurs